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St Brigid - Ireland's Mother Saint

The History of St Brigid


Who?


St Brigid is the ‘mother saint’ of Ireland, and is one of Ireland’s national saints along with St Patrick and St Columba. She is also associated with poets, livestock, beer, fertility, fire and more.



Depictions of St Brigid often show her holding a cross. Here, she's also shown holding a flaming bowl; Brigid is thought to offer homes protection against fire.


History


Like many Irish saints, the story of Brigid’s life is a combination of a pre-Christian tale integrated with a Catholic co-option. Once a powerful Celtic goddess and warrior, the familiar stories concerning Brigid were given a Christian angle to inspire people to follow the new faith.


In Celtic mythology, Brigid was the daughter of The Dagda and Danu, and was the goddess of Spring. There are numerous tales associated with Brigid, involving great courage, her love of animals and livestock and stories of miraculous healing.


In the Christian version of her life, she was inspired by the teachings of St Patrick and devoted her life to looking after the poor and sick. After she gave away a precious sword, her father finally allowed her to enter the convent and, from there, she founded many more - the most famous one being in Kildare.


Traditions


Brigid’s feast day is the 1st February and is regarded by many as the first day of Spring, or Imbolc in the Celtic calendar. Traditionally, Irish people marked the occasion by making a St Brigid’s cross from reeds and hanging them up in their home. The crosses were thought to bring blessings for the year and even offer protection from fire - a real threat at a time when many houses were thatched.


This is just one of many St Brigid’s customs - another is the hanging out of a handkerchief, ribbon or cloth on St Brigid’s Eve to be blessed with healing powers by the saint as she passes. In the 20th century, the St Brigid’s cross became one of several national symbols of Ireland, and it is still recognised today as an emblem of Ireland’s distinctive culture and traditions.




LIHH volunteers show children at St Patrick's Primary School Leeds to make St Brigid's crosses


St Brigid’s Day in 2024


Here at Leeds Irish Health and Homes, St Brigid’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate our distinctive Leeds Irish identity. This year, we’ve been speaking to women from our community about what their Irish heritage means to them and finding out how they keep it alive and celebrate it in their everyday lives. Keep an eye out on social media to find out more…


Some ideas for celebrating St Brigid’s Day


Whether you celebrate St Brigid’s Day faithfully each year or it’s a less familiar event, we’d love you to join us in celebrating what it means to be Irish - and particularly an Irish woman - in Leeds in 2024. Feel free to try one - or a couple - of the following fun and creative ideas to mark the occasion…


● Whether you need protection from fire or not, making a St Brigid’s Cross is a lovely way to get into a creative ‘flow’ state and quiet the mind. Take a look at this how-to video from the National Museum of Ireland, and remember you can adapt by using pipe cleaners or similar. It’s a lovely thing to keep it for yourself or to give it to a friend.


● Take a walk in nature, preferably near flowing water. It’s a great way to boost your spirits while honouring your Irish heritage - after all, there are 15 wells associated with St Brigid in Ireland.


● If a cross feels like hard work, why not get stuck into some Celtic cross colouring? An activity for all ages to enjoy (we’ve produced our own St Brigid’s colouring sheet below - feel free to download and use.)



St Brigid's colouring sheet - download below!


● We think St Brigid’s Day is the perfect excuse for some socialising. Invite a few friends round, maybe prepare some food or drinks with an Irish twist (there are tonnes of ideas here) and celebrate your support network.


● Finally, you could plant some seeds or bulbs to mark the beginning of Spring - your future self will thank you when you see splashes of colour appearing a few months down the line.


Got the enthusiasm but not the green fingers? You’d be very welcome to join our friendly intergenerational gardening group - another great way to connect with Irish people and people of Irish heritage in Leeds and to give back to your local community. Find out more by contacting info@lihh.org.


We’d love to hear how you’ve spent St Brigid’s Day - make sure you join the conversation over on Facebook or Twitter.



St Brigid's cross colouring
.pdf
Download PDF • 515KB



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